“Nothing to hide”

I don’t agree with Ross Douthat that often, but I’m always happy to be reminded, and to remind others, as Douthat does in this piece, of a certain immortal phrase:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know,” Google’s Eric Schmidt told an interviewer in 2009, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

And of course, the Twitter feed referenced in this post’s title and Douthat’s lede is absolutely priceless.

There is a certain tension in Douthat’s piece that is perhaps under-realized by the author himself. This is between changing individual norms around privacy online, and the expanding boundaries of “sharing,” on the one hand; and the need for legal infrastructure that protects private data, and the right to not have that data cataloged, archived, analyzed, in ways that users do not contemplate when they use online platforms.

“The internet” is increasingly constructed as a public space of sorts. Rights to association, speech, and privacy in that sphere must be robustly protected, and balanced with normative evolution around that space. It’s just not clear how that balance will be worked out, and scorn for that process on the part of certain tech elite – the very people who should be thinking hardest about it – certainly doesn’t help.

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